Richard Batchelor

Change Management & Strategic Human Resources

November 30 2011

Change management Disney Style (Part 1)

I have been away on vacation. Yes even I take a break from work. Part of the trip away involved a week in Disneyland Paris. The experience of getting there and back, as well as the time in the park certainly gave me many thoughts on change management practice.

Beginning with communications, it’s interesting that as a European site, they have to accommodate the variety of languages across the continent. It’s based in France, so French comes in to play as the stalwart, but then they also provide English and generally Spanish across the park. Mix that with some German, Dutch and occasional Italian and it made me realize the communications challenges that prevail here and how well they have worked to keep things simple. They use visual indicators wherever possible so the need for the different languages was not required. This made me think of the challenges we face as change managers to communicate a change across a business or to internal and external stakeholders. Why do we so often write up long and complicated explanations or instructions when perhaps a simple image or graphic will do? We sit there and try and work out how to speak to Finance, IT and all other sorts of other operational areas in different ways using their own language, yet maybe we can use a graphic or image to  describe a change and have that understood by all. Perhaps even the use of pictures in preference to words…. They say a picture tells a thousand words.

One morning on entering the ticketing area to go through to the park, we were stopped from taking a short cut and made to follow a long path back out and in again, slightly more than 3 feet to the left of where we began. Why did we have to do this? Rules I guess, but we were given no explanation. Of course while the three of us were backtracking to come back along the second line route, we were watching by the eagle eyes “cast member”.  Focusing so much on us then allowed seven or so people to take the short cut route we had been scolded for using. I was annoyed and frustrated by this “rules is rules” approach, but then began to consider why it happened. No doubt this was the most important task for that individual and they were happily enforcing what they had been told. But I wondered if they had been told why – perhaps there was some record keeping, health and safety or security reason for ensuring a set path through the ticket stalls was taken by all visitors. I reflected on the need to explain why changes are happening for people. I we don’t put perspective on the change then the individual may make the change within a set and rigid environment – almost just for the sake of the change, without considering the purpose or underlying reasons for making the change. We need to get away from expecting people to follow orders and to encourage active engagement and free thinking. When people understand why the change is happening they are going to be more enthusiastic and human about the change event.

For any of you with experience of Disney parks, you will be aware that they have lands within the Disneyland Park. Within each land there are a number of experiences (aka rides). Now it crossed my mind that there were 3 of these activities that were very similar. Each of these involved riding in a cart, attached to a pole. There were 12 or so of these poles attached to a central pole and they were spun round, by the central pole, with opportunities to rise up and down. A Spin-lifter, I believe it is called. Now these types of experiences at Disneyland are dressed to fit in with a Disney theme.  So we had one dressed to be a setoff flying Dumbo the elephants, one set as Aladdin’s magic carpets and one as “future world” rockets.  What struck me was that my nephew was nervous about riding one of these, but once he had ridden in Aladdin, he was happy to do them all as he recognized the core design was the same. So it made me think about integrating changes and how we can use the opportunity in reverse. No matter how something is dressed up, if it is fundamentally the same at the core, then people who have experience a successful change through one environment, will embrace a similar one more readily.  So if we have successfully introduced an organizational restructure, brought along a new IT system or changes the way reporting is made – if we want to do something similar again as a further improvement or business benefit, then stripping it back to its core purpose and relating it to the previous event, will  engage people much more easily.

Ok I think that’s enough Disney reflection for now – magic moments, parades and eating establishments will be part of my next posting – the good, the bad and the downright bizarre!

 

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